Cell phones during the dental workday: what’s your policy?

Do you prohibit cell phone use during the dental workday? It's time to reconsider that policy. There are many reasons your staff should have access to their cell phones, including taking those great photos of patients and staff to use on your website and social media.

Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2017 05 Cell Phone 1

Do you prohibit cell phone use during the dental workday? It's time to reconsider that policy. There are many reasons your staff should have access to their cell phones, including taking those great photos of patients and staff to use on your website and social media.

Do you still have a zero-tolerance cell phone policy in your dental practice? If so, you need to rethink it. Today, no cell phone use is pure fantasy. But phones can be a big advantage, and here’s why.

The other day I was watching “Catch Me if You Can” with some friends and their 15-year-old daughter. There was a point in the movie when Leonardo Dicaprio’s character needed to make a phone call, so he rushed around asking people if they had a dime. My friends’ daughter was utterly confused as to why the character needed a dime to make a phone call. “Why doesn’t he just use his cell phone?” she asked. I laughed because the movie was based in the 1950s. But her statement got me thinking about how dependent we are on our cell phones.

Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, you name it—we are all hooked. Seeing a person with a cell phone in the 21st century is as common as seeing a person with a watch in the 20th century. So is it really logical to expect people to put their cell phones away for the entire workday? I like to visualize a world where it is acceptable to require that all cell phones stay locked away while people are on the clock. Anyone that needs to get in touch with you can simply call the office line. However, today that is just a fantasy.

In reality, it is acceptable for 10-year-olds to have iPhones and laptops in the classroom. As I pondered this, I decided to do some nonscientific research. In one day, besides the typical distracted drivers and the restaurant tables filled with people ignoring each other, I noticed:

• A policeman checking his text while directing traffic|
• Cargo guys on the flight line taking selfies while waiting for passenger to get on the plane
• Teachers looking at their phones while watching the kids on the playground.

Many people would consider it bad manners to bump into someone because your head was down checking a text, but most don't get mad anymore. They merely smile and nod in an understanding way. Cell phones have become the fabric of our lives. So I ask—if you have a no tolerance policy in your dental practice, do you need to set some different boundaries?

Many offices are starting to integrate the Apple watch to page the doctor or clinical team to the operatory. In order for these watches to work, they need to be connected to a phone and the phone needs to be close, preferably on the person’s body. I’m sure that many of you have a Facebook page for your office. If there is a strict no cell phone policy, how can your team take pictures of your patients, or post appointment availabilities to fill the schedule? I even saw an office manager justify the use of her phone because it was the quickest way to reach a salesperson.

Maybe it’s time to rethink the zero policy on cell phone use for employees and determine a system that is more conducive with today’s expectations. Most people are good about policing themselves regarding their phones. This includes not looking at their in front of patients and putting their cell phone down immediately when the office phone rings. However, not everyone’s internal rulebook on cell phone etiquette may be as patient-focused.

When creating an office policy, be very specific on when and where employees can check their phones. Most dental offices have scoffed at the well-known smoke breaks that occur in other business environments, so maybe a cell phone break could be considered? These breaks could be defined with the understanding that patient care is first and foremost; if a situation arises, cell phone breaks will be cut short.

This is a great topic for a team meeting, which would include encouraging the team to police themselves when using their cell phones. If a team member sees another team member spending too much time on his or her phone, it should be addressed with that person immediately.

Ask your team what they think are good guidelines for cell phone use. Let them develop the standards for which all will be held. You never want one person to be the one who ruins it for everyone else. Leverage this opportunity to let your team build your social media presence while remaining connected to the outside world. If you need some assistance on guidelines to set for your team, contact me at Chris@GTSgurus.com. I have some great suggestions.


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As a practice management consultant with Global Team Solutions, Chris Ciardello is passionate about sharing his expertise in the areas of technology and marketing as it pertains to the dental office. Chris has a knack for understanding the needs of an office and he communicates those needs to the team, which creates a cohesive, productive atmosphere. He can be reached at chris@GTSgurus.com.

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